First announced at Image Expo last January, Nameless is the third monthly Grant Morrison comic currently on the comics rack –a fact that should not go unnoticed. Morrison is arguably the most popular (and perhaps most polarizing) writer in comics today, and although he is leaving DC Comics soon, with Multiversity serving as a farewell love letter of sorts to (and an not-so-subtle critique of) the company, his other series —Annihilator for Legendary and Nameless from Image– suggest that he has no intentions of slowing down any time soon. Even though these three current series seem to have a lot in common as they explore some darker themes in Morrison’s work, Nameless is perhaps the most “straight forward” of the three. Of course, as with most of the Morrison’s comics, there’s obviously more to the story than there appears to be at first glance.

The first issue of Nameless follows a “occult hustler” who, fittingly, doesn’t have a name because, according to the story, he has forsaken it to ensure that no one would have power over him. “Nameless”, as he’s called, must be skilled at what he does since he is eventually contacted by a secretive group of billionaire astronauts to travel to the moon in order to stop a rogue asteroid called Xibalba from destroying Earth. “But wait,” you’re probably asking, “how would an expert in the occult help stop an asteroid?” Well, turns out that Xibalba bears a magical symbol that serves as a door to the “anti-universe.” Meanwhile, something (or someone) is apparently turning people into homicidal maniacs, who butcher their loved ones while speaking in tongues. Oh, and there is a mysterious “veiled woman” who is hunting “Nameless” in his dreams. Despite the mix of styles, this is a horror comic, and a truly terrifying one at that.

NamelessA

Morrison has always worked best when he mixes a seemingly simple story with a deeper thematic structure, and all of these seemingly disparate elements will undoubtedly come together at some point. However, what makes this first issue so engaging –and terrifying– is the idea that they might not. The horror of the unknown haunts the pages of this comic, which is what makes it so scary. The sort of malevolent, existential threats posed by Xibalba and the “veiled woman” are far scarier than those of any predictable monster or zombie story. The “fear of the unknown” that Morrison is tapping into here is what famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft identified as “the oldest and strongest kind of fear,” a sort of supernatural fear that is beyond human understanding. It’s a fear that is itself “nameless.” Like Lovecraft’s stories, there is also a misanthropic streak to Morrison’s story here, as if the only thing more dangerous than a giant asteroid or an anti-universe is human nature itself.

Morrison himself has cited the work of horror author Thomas Ligotti as an influence on Nameless, and if the sort of pessimistic misanthropy that permeates the story sounds familiar, that’s because Ligotti’s work also influenced Matthew McConaughey’s character Rust Cohle on HBO’s True DetectiveThis nihilistic theme is what makes Nameless such a truly scary comic: even though it may seem like a typical action story at first, it’s clear that something much darker awaits the characters.

It’s interesting to see this sort of story from Morrison since most of his recent superhero work has such an optimistic tone: All Star Superman is probably the most inspirational comic ever written, and even Final Crisis ends with Superman defeating Darkseid–an actual god of evil–by singing a song. However, this existential horror fits with his current work. Like “the Gentry” threatening to destroy the Multiverse in Multiversity or the black hole at the center of Annihilator, the threat of Nameless is at seemingly beyond comprehension, which makes it that much scarier.

NamelessB

Of course, despite being the “ultimate horror comic,” Nameless #1 feels much more like an action story, albeit a very strange one. Part of this is due to Chris Burnham’s artwork, which has a kinetic and vibrant feel. Burnham worked with Morrison previously on Batman Incorporated, and their styles compliment each other well. Since Morrison likes to use the format and layout of the comic itself to explore the thematic elements of his stories, the artists he works with best are the ones who are willing to try new narrative styles and techniques. Burnham’s layouts on Nameless are unconventional without being confusing, and it’s clear that his artistic style is as important to the story’s meaning as the script and dialogue. Colorist Nathan Fairbairn also contributes to the feel and tone of the issue with his palate of garish colors which give the whole book a slightly unnatural and unsettling appearance. (Over on his blog, Fairbairn explains his approach to this issue and the different techniques for coloring print versus digital comics. It’s pretty fascinating stuff if you’re interested in the process of comic making.)

NamelessC

Our “nameless” hero.

If you’re already a fan of Morrison’s work, then Nameless is a book you’ll obviously want to check out. It manages to touch on familiar themes from his other work while having a unique tone and feel from those other books. Seeing him work with Burnham again on a non-superhero book is also exciting. For people that find Morrison’s comics confusing or complicated, the vagueness of this issue probably won’t assuage those complaints. However, that sort of uncertainty and disorientation is part of what makes it work as a horror comic, and makes it a truly terrifying one at that.

The Nameless can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop, from Image Comics (DRM Free!), or on Comixology.

Overall Score
90 %

'Nameless' is an existential horror story disguised as a sci-fi action comic. In this first issue, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham hint at the scariest thing of all: the unknown.

About The Author

Paul R Jaissle is a philosopher, collage artist, and musician. In his free time, he enjoys reading comics (especially ones with Batman in them), listening to power pop, and watching wrestling.

Comments are closed.